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Surge in Indiana high school students taking career, technical education classes

By Justin Hicks, IPB News | Published on in Education, Government, Statewide News
A high school student in Elkhart takes a career and technical education class in computer-aided design. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Indiana schools are seeing a surge in the number of students taking career and technical education courses this school year. Nearly 225,000 students enrolled in hands-on skills classes, far more than at any point in the last five years.

The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet reports 30,000 more students are taking CTE classes than last year. However, the 2020-21 school year had a slump in enrollments in hands-on courses as social distancing required instructors to modify or pause certain parts of their curriculums.

The most popular classes this year (in order of popularity) are in career pathways for business management, engineering, human resources, nursing and culinary arts.

PJ McGrew, executive director of the workforce cabinet, said most of the growth is due to the state allowing students to form individualized career pathways to graduate. But he worries there could be a growing number viewing CTE classes as an alternative to post-high school education.

“Unfortunately, I think some of the skepticism around traditional four-year college that’s out there right now is driving up some of that [enrollments] as well,” he said.

The workforce cabinet also began a soft launch of a new curriculum for CTE courses this academic year called Next Level Programs of Study. It has several goals, one of which hopes to better align high school classes with post-secondary classes.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.